The Things That Count

- 1850-1919
Now, dear, it isn’t the bold things,
Great deeds of valour and might,
That count the most in the summing up of life at the end of the day.
But it is the doing of old things,
Small acts that are just and right;
And doing them over and over again, no matter what others say;
In smiling at fate, when you want to cry, and in keeping at work when you want to play—
Dear, those are the things that count.

And, dear, it isn’t the new ways
Where the wonder-seekers crowd
That lead us into the land of content, or help us to find our own.
But it is keeping to true ways,
Though the music is not so loud,
And there may be many a shadowed spot where we journey along alone;
In flinging a prayer at the face of fear, and in changing into a song a groan—
Dear, these are the things that count.

My dear, it isn’t the loud part
Of creeds that are pleasing to God,
Not the chant of a prayer, or the hum of a hymn, or a jubilant shout or song.
But it is the beautiful proud part
Of walking with feet faith-shod;
And in loving, loving, loving through all, no matter how things go wrong;
In trusting ever, though dark the day, and in keeping your hope when the way seems long—
Dear, these are the things that count.

More by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Friendship After Love

After the fierce midsummer all ablaze
    Has burned itself to ashes, and expires
    In the intensity of its own fires,
There come the mellow, mild, St. Martin days
Crowned with the calm of peace, but sad with haze.
    So after Love has led us, till he tires
    Of his own throes, and torments, and desires,
Comes large-eyed friendship: with a restful gaze,
He beckons us to follow, and across
    Cool verdant vales we wander free from care.
    Is it a touch of frost lies in the air?
Why are we haunted with a sense of loss?
We do not wish the pain back, or the heat;
And yet, and yet, these days are incomplete.

An Autumn Reverie

Through all the weary, hot midsummer time,
My heart has struggled with its awful grief.
And I have waited for these autumn days,
Thinking the cooling winds would bring relief.
For I remembered how I loved them once,
When all my life was full of melody.
And I have looked and longed for their return,
Nor thought but they would seem the same, to me.

The fiery summer burned itself away,
And from the hills, the golden autumn time
Looks down and smiles. The fields are tinged with brown—
The birds are talking of another clime.
The forest trees are dyed in gorgeous hues,
And weary ones have sought an earthy tomb.
But still the pain tugs fiercely at my heart—
And still my life is wrapped in awful gloom.

The winds I thought would cool my fevered brow,
Are bleak, and dreary; and they bear no balm.
The sounds I thought would soothe my throbbing brain,
Are grating discords; and they can not calm
This inward tempest. Still it rages on.
My soul is tost upon a troubled sea,
I find no pleasure in the olden joys—
The autumn is not as it used to be.

I hear the children shouting at their play!
Their hearts are happy, and they know not pain.
To them the day brings sunlight, and no shade.
And yet I would not be a child again.
For surely as the night succeeds the day,
So surely will their mirth turn into tears.
And I would not return to happy hours,
If I must live again these weary years.

I would walk on, and leave it all behind:
will walk on; and when my feet grow sore,
The boatman waits—his sails are all unfurled—
He waits to row me to a fairer shore.
My tired limbs shall rest on beds of down,
My tears shall all be wiped by Jesus’ hand;
My soul shall know the peace it long hath sought --
A peace too wonderful to understand.

A Solar Eclipse

In that great journey of the stars through space
     About the mighty, all-directing Sun,
     The pallid, faithful Moon, has been the one
Companion of the Earth. Her tender face,
Pale with the swift, keen purpose of that race,
     Which at Time’s natal hour was first begun,
     Shines ever on her lover as they run
And lights his orbit with her silvery smile.

Sometimes such passionate love doth in her rise,
     Down from her beaten path she softly slips,
And with her mantle veils the Sun’s bold eyes,
     Then in the gloaming finds her lover’s lips.
While far and near the men our world call wise
     See only that the Sun is in eclipse.

Related Poems

When I consider every thing that grows (Sonnet 15)

When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment.
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment.
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheerèd and checked even by the self-same sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay,
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with decay
To change your day of youth to sullied night;
    And all in war with Time for love of you,
    As he takes from you, I engraft you new.